On a night when the city of Ottawa could perhaps best be described as Hoth-like, you wouldn't have blamed the fans if instead of coming to the game they sheltered themselves in the innards of a tauntaun. Frankly, that might have been more pleasant.
OK, that was a bad nerd joke. It's just that this game really wasn't terribly exciting. Really, it was mostly kinda boring. In spite of the Senators' supposed dedication to fast starts, the Sabres carried the play for the majority of the first period and struck first when Jack Eichel basically a created a goal by himself:
As a side note, Eichel was a menace all night long, and the more you watch the kid play the more you have to walk away convinced he's going to be a star in this league. Buffalo's a long ways from contending for a play-off berth yet, but the outline of a very good time is there to be seen.
Nonetheless, just over a minute after Matt Moulson opened the scoring the Sens tied the game thanks to Ryan Dzingel's first career National Hockey League goal:
Of the many call-ups who've had their moment with the big team this year, Dzingel has been by far the most impressive to my eyes. His combination of speed and skill are a welcome addition to a bottom six that's desperately in need of that kind of talent infusion. It's only been seven games, and aren't we always talking about being wary of small sample sizes, but I see no reason Dzingel can't spend the rest of the season with the big club to prove he belongs for the start of next year.
At any rate, those two goals aside the rest of the contest was sadly a bit of a snoozefest until overtime and the shootout. I'm not sure if both teams were determined to lock down at least a point each, but there was a total of 11 shots combined in the third period. If I had to give the Sens' overall performance to that point a grade, it would be a C: on the one hand, shots were 35-24 in favour of the Sabres (and that is very bad) but raw shots also masked stronger possession numbers (shot attempts were actually 54-47 in favour of the Sens at 5v5). The Sens really should outplay, and beat, a team like the Sabres in regulation. Alas, that wasn't really the case tonight.
When the overtime did begin, first the Sens, and then the Sabres, had excellent chances to win the game. After a turnover in their own end, the Sens broke away 2-on-1 with Dzingel and Erik Karlsson but the captain was robbed by a sliding Robin Lehner on a one-timer. In return, the Sabres' best chance came in the form of a Jack Eichel break-away where Anderson held his ground and closed up the five hole.
As we headed to the shoot-out, most fans probably took solace in the fact that former Senators' keeper Robin Lehner has not exactly seen his share of success in the skills competition. Indeed, both Bobby Ryan and Kyle Turris beat Lehner to virtually the same spot with snap shots. Meanwhile, Craig Anderson stopped both Sabres shooters he faced to secure the win.
It wasn't a game the Sens necessarily deserved to win, they were out-shot 39-26 after all, but they pulled it out thanks to a strong performance from Craig Anderson. We've heard that story a number of times this season. At this stage, they're virtually exactly where they were last year: they need to win 20 or so of their remaining games to make the play-offs. It doesn't seem likely, but friend of the blog Micah McCurdy tells us the Sens' chances doubled after tonight's game:
Senators playoff chances up from 1% to 2%.— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) February 17, 2016
So you're saying there's a chance!
Sens Heroes: The Fourth Line
Lazar was probably the best of the three, but each of Curtis Lazar, Nick Paul and Chris Neil had a good game. Paul didn't look out of place and the line played with pace, giving the Sens a much-needed boost from their bottom 6.
Sens Hero: Craig Anderson
Andy's had his ups and downs lately, but he was superb again tonight. Not too many Senators skaters had stand-out games, and so it was left up to their goalie to salvage a win.
Sens Killer: Jack Eichel
Eichel was everywhere tonight, and he had a hand in what seemed like all of the Sabres' most dangerous moments. The kid is gooooood.